Tired of chasing your proverbial tail in the quest for a sales and marketing plan that actually delivers? First acknowledge that a silver bullet rarely exists. The solution, while not particularly sexy, can and will deliver provided you trust the process and avoid the temptation to skip steps along the way.
Begin by researching what businesses in your category typically spend to maintain or grow market share. For most categories, plan on spending three percent of targeted sales one year from today on marketing and sales efforts if you desire to maintain market share (e.g., replacing lost customers with new ones). Plan on at least five percent if you aspire to grow share.
Next, validate -- through customer and prospect surveys -- a few vital pieces of information upon which your plan will hinge, such as: your differentiators, the companies your customers believe you compete against and how they differentiate, what messages resonate with customers, and what delivery channels they are most likely to notice and be receptive to. Avoid omitting this crucial step, relying on your potentially biased assumptions. If you're off base, you may condemn your plan to failure.
Next define your goals and objectives for the year and what metrics you'll regularly review to gauge your success. Then determine the specific target audiences in which to focus on in order to achieve the goals established, drafting customized messaging which will resonate with each. Your research will allow you to prioritize key messages in the order of importance to each target.
Determine the best strategies for reaching each of your targets and the tactics you'll use to execute accordingly. Include the selected channel (e.g., search engine marketing or your sales team) and approach (e.g., special offer or sales team training).
Outline a realistic timeframe in which you are likely to see a return on each strategy planned. For example, strategies centered on training of your sales team to improve existing customer cross-sell ratios will often pay off more quickly than marketing strategies targeting new customer acquisition. Determining these "minimum payoff timeframes" and communicating them to your management team will help curtail the desire to derail from the plan before it's had ample time to deliver.
Prepare a report each quarter calculating key metrics and progress toward goal. Then refine your sales and marketing plan based on those findings. You may shift dollars away from one channel toward another generating better results.
If all of this sounds too daunting, causing you to reconsider a more common reactionary or shotgun approach, consider bringing in external support to guide you through the process and ensure you start off the New Year with a bang.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, Tennessee, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).